Episode #2 of the course “Significant American writers of the 20th century”
“Toni Morrison” is the pen-name of Chloe Wofford, arguably the greatest 20th-century African American female author. Born in 1931, Morrison is the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized for changing the face of American literature with her emphasis on the experience of African Americans. During her Ohio upbringing, Morrison was struck by the classics, which she did not feel depicted the experience and culture of African Americans. She became a writer and novelist in order to change that. Her work explores issues of race, class, culture, sex, and American values; several of her books have been banned or censored among public outcry due to their content.
Morrison graduated from Howard University and transitioned into her literary career as an editor at Random House. She wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye, which was published in 1969 and was immediately controversial for its depictions of racism, child abuse, and incestual rape. Throughout the 1970s, Morrison followed up with a number of other intriguing, artistic novels, but it was her 1985 novel, Beloved, that earned her the Pulitzer Prize and an official place on the stage of American literature.
Morrison has been a professor at Princeton University for over 20 years, and she gives lectures around the world. She is a personal friend of Oprah Winfrey and has appeared on her show numerous times. President Barack Obama stated that Morrison’s third novel, Song of Solomon, changed his life with its depiction of contemporary African American masculinity; in 2012, Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Morrison has published 10 novels, including titles such as Paradise, Home, and Mercy, as well as a play, a series of children’s books that she co-wrote with one of her sons, and a number of scholastic and academic articles. Her review of race depictions in American literature, Playing in the Dark, is a scathing and inspiring analysis. She currently lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where she is working on her next publication.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
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